September 28 has been designated World Rabies Day by the Global Alliance for Rabies Control to raise awareness about the still serious threat posed by the disease.
According to one estimate, half the world’s population is threatened by rabies, which globally kills as many as 70,000 people each year, mostly in poor and rural areas of Africa and Asia. India records about a third of the world’s annual rabies deaths and 40% of rabies victims are children under 15.
Rabies is 99.9% fatal but 100% preventable. The statistics often surprise people who live in developed countries like the United States, where vaccinating pets against rabies has been emphasized since the 1950’s and required by law. Vaccines for people and dogs are very effective but underdeveloped and poor countries lack the necessary resources to conduct mass vaccinations. In Haiti for example, more than one-million doses of rabies vaccine would be required annually at a cost of about $3 per dose. But not every dog needs to be vaccinated to eradicate rabies from a particular region, according to veterinarian Guy Palmer, an infectious disease specialist, who’s been conducting research on rabies and vaccination programs for nearly 20 years. He says vaccination of just 60% of dogs can control an outbreak and eradicate rabies completely. (Read more: “Experts Unveil Plan to End Rabies Globally Via Dog Vaccinations”)
On this World Rabies Day, dog owners are encouraged to take part in the “Me and My Dog-Together Against Rabies” campaign by sharing a photo of themselves with their dog on social media using the hash tag #TogetherAgainstRabies. Photos can also be posted here.
The American Veterinary Medical Foundation (AVMF) also encourages financial donations. $10 would cover the cost of vaccine for 20 dogs while $20 would protect 50 dogs. Donations can be made at AVMF.org. Make sure to designate “2014 World Rabies Day” on the program menu. To learn more about rabies and protecting your family and pets, download this AVMA brochure.